In December 1999 I published my first “agile” book, Adaptive Software Development (wow, nearly 15 years ago now). Recently, Dorset House Publishing and Addison-Wesley brought out an electronic edition of this book. To promote this edition we selected a chapter that can be read in full–for free. This chapter, Why Even Good Managers Cause Projects to Fail, seems as relevant today as it did 15 years ago. I hope you enjoy it!
Disruptive technologies, and disruptive practices, can cause good managers to fail. This Chapter explains why a new management model is imperative and characterizes the market ecosystem in which software development teams must operate.
Chapter Lead In
On the desk in my office sits an entirely self-contained, enclosed, living ecosystem. Five inches high, this microcosm of life contains algae, very small shrimp and snails, and multitudes of microscopic bacteria, all living by exchanging stuff with each other and by converting light to biochemical energy. Next to this living ecosystem, on my computer monitor, digital beings (Biots) exchange digital stuff. They live, eat (each other, of course), mate, give birth, evolve into new organisms, and die—a sea of artificial life created in silicon by one of the many Artificial Life programs available.
I use these two visions of life, one real and one simulated, as constant reminders to myself to think about all business organizations as if they were organic ecosystems. Thinking of a feature team, a larger product team, or an entire company as an ecosystem helps me to understand how limited one’s actions are to influence the forces that propel the economic landscape. When thinking about how to manage in complex situations, I find that the concept of a living ecosystem provides a profound cultural perspective.